Rather than the more academic ramblings which I’ve scribed over the past few months, actually the past few years, I’m going to take a moment and write like an old blogger would do, straightaway from the origins of blogs, why blogs began, from the heart. Tan argues that blogs are often used, up to 50% of the time as a form of self-therapy (Tan, 2008). While watching X-Factor wasn’t a form of self-therapy, the 2014 series closely aligned with my experience in Australia and so I would watch it feeling that my journey here was aligned with those on the show, constantly challenged and hoping to make it work amid the bumps and unexpected hurdles.
My relationship with X-Factor started the moment I walked into the corporate housing unit where I moved to in Australia on July 28. My husband used our savings so I could come to Australia to finish graduate school. My dream was always to live here and for us to move here together one day. A long distance marriage sucks, it sucks in every sense of the word. We’re newly weds too, but hey divorce rates are down, so I’m feeling good about things.
The Qantas flight landed at some awful hour at 5am or something, the twenty hours of my body squished into a vertical fetal position had me desperate for something stronger than Advil and the fatigue from the time change had already began that hazy, skull pointing headache. Walking into the corporate housing with my suitcases, I appeared homeless. There are gobs of teenagers milling about the place with cell phones and loud voices. I’m then told that my place won’t be ready for another four to five hours and would I like to change in the gym room. I feel sorry for the poor woman who is telling me this awful news. That the closest I’ll get to horizontal is on a pleather couch next to obnoxious sixteen year-olds who are flirting insanely. Yes, she felt awful for me. This blog… it will continue in a moment. The kids, I later find out are the X-Factor contestants, so over the last few months I was able to get to know them all. My favorite who actually wasn’t a kid and who was my age was Reigan Derry.
The X-Factor has a cult following, it does. And to get a sense of X-Factor, it was born out of American Idol, but on steroids. It takes the original platform, and then adds the integration of judges actually helping the contestants, so not only does a contestant win but so does a judge. In Fact there are even quizzes you can take to see if you’re fit to judge (which hinges on pathetic). Twitter, @TheXFactor and Facebook, Instagram, and even the outdated and measly 50 mllion people on Four Square have climbed on board as well. The entire “community” around X-Factor has exploded, illustrating that an online community is a place that has many outlets to extend the conversation, making these social networks sites operate in a different role that isn’t about “constructing a public profile” for others to see and view, if anything the use of Twitter and Facebook is to have dialogue around the show itself and most of those people don’t really care if you check out their profile or not, they are just using it as a entrance to be part of that social discourse.
The show airs in countries all over the world including America, the UK, Australia and even places like Vietnam. While Wikipedia is a horrible source of information, this is a blog and not an academic essay and so I’ll throw the old Wikipedia link. Part of X-Factors voting brilliance is it maximizes people’s addiction to text messaging, which was the most used resource in a mobile phone (Scharl, 2006) eight years ago, and is predominantly used to vote in winners for the X-Factor. This technology is different then pledging money to a political campaign, which clearly helped Barack Obama win the 2008 US presidential election, as mobile hackers are figuring out ways to revise the “voting” systems, which is hilarious.
Audiences using mobile devices for voting is referred to by academics as “Mobile Audience Interaction” … very clever! This is defined as “survey-like type of interaction, evaluation, or opinion-stating communication which individuals engage in via their mobile devices (Faulant, Fuller & Matzer, 2012). X-Factor is one of those television shows that attracts masses of people to believe in an ordinary citizen with some musical chutzpah. We pay some stupid amount of money and text in votes to invest in a future star. X-Factor and talent shows like it are like a road map to stardom where people can visibly witness someone transforms from nobody to somebody overnight and people are led to believe, and in part they are responsible for that makeover.
As I sit here staring at my mobile device, I realize two things. That the X-Factor and mobile messaging are not new and sexy, in fact in a digital world they’re archaic and outdated, and yet both serve a functional purpose. As I close this more traditional blog entry I’ll say that while Reigan didn’t win she played her heart out, something to which I can closely relate.
Faullant, R., Füller, J., & Matzler, K. (2012). Mobile audience interaction – explaining the adoption of new mobile service applications in socially enriched environments. Engineering Management Research, 1(1), 59.
Scharl, A., Dickinger, A., & Murphy, J. (2005). Diffusion and success factors of mobile marketing. Electronic Commerce Research and Applications, 4(2), 159-173.
Tan, L. (2008). Psychotherapy 2.0: MySpace® blogging as self-therapy. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 62(2), 143.